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Future Actions Predicted From Brain Activity 72

An anonymous reader writes "Bringing the real world into the brain scanner, researchers say they can now determine the action a person was planning, mere moments before that action is actually executed. In the study at the University of Western Ontario, human subjects had their brain activity scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they performed one of three hand movements. By using the signals from many brain regions, the researchers could predict, better than chance, which of the actions the volunteer was merely intending to do, seconds later."
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Future Actions Predicted From Brain Activity

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does anyone else interpret "mere" moments as implying that a shorter amount of time is better? Wouldn't being able to detect an action *longer* before it actually happens be better?

    • I would agree, but it probably means that they can do it "mere moments before", as opposed to "processing the data for hours and then checking the test subject's intentions".
    • depends on where they want to implement the technology.

      not sure i'd want my arms/legs/hands moving much before I actually intended

      "Being able to predict a human’s desired movements using brain signals takes us one step closer to using those signals to control prosthetic limbs in movement-impaired patient populations, like those who suffer from spinal cord injuries or locked-in syndrome.”

    • by tmosley ( 996283 )
      You're just jealous because I can bend spoons using only my hands.
  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <> on Thursday June 30, 2011 @04:35PM (#36627306)

    Once again art wins the contest by default, when real life plagiarizes it (Minority Report).

    • "Precognition"/predicting the future is prior art on "detecting electrical signals in the brain"?

  • If only... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by N0Man74 ( 1620447 ) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @04:46PM (#36627424)

    If only they could have used this technology to predict them creating this technology.

    • As we all know, this causes a temporal paradox, and since this wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff isn't quite a straight line, this is ok.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This has been reported before, I forget what the research was, but "predicting mistakes before you make them" found that the decisions you make before proceeding against your better judgement (omg they found the little angel and devil shoulder imps via the MRI..) This is just the same research again, but focused on movements.

    The logical outcome of this research is figuring out how to tap it for cybernetics.

    • Indeed... an interesting implant would be something that triggers the running reflex when a certain sound sequence (gunshot) is heard. This would give sprinters a definite edge.

      I'm sure the same concept could be applied to many other fields where a certain reaction to specific stimulus is required to be as fast as possible.

    • Not only is this old news, they didn't even credit my mom, who when I was little always seemed to know what I was going to do even before I did.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hilter used to claim this as well. BS Technology.

  • "Mere Moments" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2011 @04:53PM (#36627518)

    This is far from predicting future actions. I, myself, know what I am going to do moments before I do it. That is because I can think faster than I can act.

      It can only predict my actions before I do them, not before I think them. This isn't the start of pre-crime, because that would require planning out your actions before you do. This is not that, and it's not even a step towards that.

    • by Tyr07 ( 2300912 )

      This is far from predicting future actions. I, myself, know what I am going to do moments before I do it. That is because I can think faster than I can act.

      It can only predict my actions before I do them, not before I think them. This isn't the start of pre-crime, because that would require planning out your actions before you do. This is not that, and it's not even a step towards that.

      That's all someone needs to know you're planning on pulling that trigger and to shoot you first. Actually, that's all a COMPUTER needs to know if you're going to comply or not. Say hello to Robocop v2

    • The obvious application is to create a computer that reads your mind and moves your (artificial legs | exoskeleton | remote hight power actuator | watever) when you expect it to move.

    • But imagine a parolee forced to wear a device that incapacitates him if he intends to fire a gun, or a patient on suicide watch.

      Or, imagine a remote-sensing device the police could use to sense whether a hostage-taker intends to pull the trigger.

  • They predicted one of three hand movements and it wasn't Rock, Paper, Scissors? They missed a huge opportunity to upend the RPS wagering market

    • The article doesn't say it wasn't. The upshot of all this is that input prediction isn't just for arcade fighter bosses anymore.
  • Will never be the same.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I *am* a neuro-scientist, though I focus more on the visual areas at the back of the brain, rather than the planning area at the front.

    This stuff is kinda shiny, but nothing all that new. We can already pick up the brain activity relating to motor actions, both with fMRI and the decidedly more portable eeg. Heck, we can pull this classification trick on the visual system and determine what people are seeing.

    The real story here is not being able to determine what people are doing - or even that we can do so

    • Yes, this allows us neuroscientists to then go on to do more interesting things like design systems to control robotic limbs, but it also enables us to ask interesting questions such as how does experience/learning effect the behaviour of these bits of brain.

      One end point of this (amongst others) is to figure out how the brain works enough that we can duplicate useful techniques for use with artificial intelligence.

      As some scholar already pointed out, I doubt that your approach works at all. For example, if I give you an excellent scope that detects every electro-magnetic activities of a personal computer, can you build(or design) a personal computer from such data of electro-magnetic activities? A human brain is some orders of magnitude more complex than a personal computer. I bet that you can't figure out a personal computer with such an approach. Your neuro-science approach can't work.

  • and all this while I didn't realize that my plans and contemplations were hidden from by brain.

  • That these signals exist in our brain is no marvel. It is obvious. The news coverage focuses on the wrong aspect of the research. The question is how well their technique works. A device to control a prosthesis better have very high accuracy.

  • .....enforce it. I mean liked who doesn't yet know politicians will lie? And lawyers... well them lawyer jokes are not just pulled out of the air....
  • So far, I haven't seen anyone mention one very useful application of said technology: Advanced input devices. Think about it. If a computer could predict your actions even a second before you do them, then the system can use this data to keep pace with your actions. Who needs a tablet interface, when one can draw on a piece of paper, and the desktop reacts accordingly? What's the point of a touchpad or mouse when one can just move a finger or two over the tabletop next to the computer? Any monitor can
  • What an article Can't wait until they actually start predicting when people are going to commit a crime before someone gets robbed or killed. [] [] []
  • So, what they invented here is an extremely expensive way to cheat at Rock, Paper, Scissors?

A method of solution is perfect if we can forsee from the start, and even prove, that following that method we shall attain our aim. -- Leibnitz